Sunday, October 28, 2007

Tour Over. And Out. And Susan Hoffman Watts.

Home at last after a week with Yale Strom and the Eldridge Street Klezmer Tour in upstate New York. It was a blast... I got to play with some of the best musicians in the Klezmer scene, many of whom I had not really crossed paths with before. Like my buddy Mark Rubin says - for a musician, what is important is not the gig... it's the hang, the chance to be with other musicians sharing similar interests and a similarly warped sense of musicians humor. For me, being on stage watching ex-Klezmatic Alicia Svigals treat her violin as an amplified rock instrument in the context of a Bukovina Jewish fiddle tune was equivalent to a year studying in a music conservatory.The winner of the 2007 Eldridge Street Klezmer Tour "Miss Popularity" award goes to Miss Susan Watts, trumpeter extraordinaire and general all-around party animator/animal/vegetable/mineral. She sings, she blows horn, but let this woman in front of a mike and she turns into a dadaist version of Sarah Silverman meets Miles Davis. Folks, this is a case of nature, not nurture. Or both. Susan's Grandfather was Jacob Hoffman, the 1920s Philadelphia klezmer bandleader whose klezmer xylophone solos appeared on many of the early klezmer reissue CDs. her Mom, Elaine Hoffman Watts, just won the 2007 National Endowment for the Arts Heritage Award for her preservation of the old klezmer drumming style.Susan grew up in a family atmosphere full of music, and she developed monster chops which, happily, she now applies to Jewish music instead of serving evil. Other interesting facts: she can eat horrible Litvak sweet gefilte fish, claiming she will eat "any Jewish food." Not even other Jews will eat "any" Jewish food. Ewwww. Here's a shakey bit of video taken during a sound check (in an acoustic hall without a sound system in Rockchester, NY) that illustrates the level of energy Susan can generate in her music: That's a pretty dangerous level of energy.Winner of the "Zen Tranquility" Award goes to Barry Mitterhoff, the mandolinist who often is seen playing in company of Jorma Kaukonen in the present line up of the legendary blues group Hot Tuna. Barry has exquisite taste - which is helpful when you are a mandolinist - and can spice up a slow Jewish hora with just the right amount of brazillian pepper or a discrete jazz chord. Barry plays a Gibson F-5 mandolin - a bit of wood and metal that is worth more than most family cars these days. That little instrument has a huge voice like... um... Susan Watts? (If anybody out there has a similar Gibson F-5 or, preferably, an oval holed Gibson F-4 that they would like to donate to me, for free, of course, please email me.The view from my battle station on stage. Rom accordion player Peter Stan and Barry Mitterhoff are lontgtime associates of Yale Strom and were always a rock-solid rythym section right on top of the shifting, improvised set list that morphed into a different show each night. The tsimbl seen is on loan from Pete Rushevsky, and is a small Romanian tsambal mic that was strung with uncomfortably soft phosphor-bronze strings... driving me nearly insane. I am now actually grateful for the steel strung tsambal I have at home - an instrument you can whack the hell out of and still call it a C minor chord.I've been off the road for almost a week... back in the Big City after a bit of exile in the boonies... and dang. I miss them already.

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